Thursday, 31 July 2008

Victoria Traffic Lights Part II

Now that Kent Highways have removed their equipment, local residents are left with the finished Victoria Traffic Lights. The works were designed to improve traffic flows and make it easier for pedestrians to get around the junction without risking safety. Has that been acheived?

Well, yes and no. For sure adjusting the traffic light system to create a three step traffic flow system has sped up the traffic flows and there seem to be less tailbacks generally, with one exception where traffic builds up going from Westwood Cross though nobody expected that tailback to be solved.

However, cars are still perfectly able to turn right off (upper) College Road onto Ramsgate Road, something which has caused an awful lot of trouble for pedestrians and led to a raft of near misses. Only by sheer luck has worse been avoided. Where the traffic flows have been adjusted at Beatrice Road, there are now effectively two differently moving lanes to be crossed in one go. It means that traffic turning left and going straight ahead goes first then immediately after they stop, the cars turning right from the same road go. This can catch pedestrians off balance and caught me out yesterday. Ive already heard complaints about this.

While a proper pedestrian crossing has been made at the Victoria Pub-Victoria Parade crossing, there is not one for those going from the pub to Andrew and Jills. This is a key crossing for school pupils and has been a dangerous crossing for many years, especially since the Victoria Pub sits on a blind corner.

I and many local residents were under the impression that islands were to be placed on the two main crossing points across Ramsgate Road in order to make it easier for pedestrians to cross it safely. These have not appeared and I wonder why such an impression was put around if they werent to appear. In my honest opinion I do not believe that local concerns have been dealt with properly and that however easy it might be for traffic flows, safety for pedestrians must be put in balance and that has not happened with these works. I believe more work will need to be conducted to make this junction safer.

Friday, 25 July 2008

SNP in shock win in Glasgow East

In another by-election loss, this time in formerly safe as houses Glasgow East, Labour was beaten by 365 votes by the SNP last night in a healthy 42% turnout. The by-election was called by the resignation (officially on health grounds but there are questions over his expenses) of David Marshall. The swing was a stonking 22.54%. The Conservatives came third with the Lib Dems trailing in fourth.
Labour desperately needed to win this by-election just to hold steady so this is a serious blow. The result seems to be more a case of the SNP being liked rather than Labour being hated. Next for Gordon Brown is a chat with the Unions who will want promises in exchange for financial support. Labour is mired in debt and a General Election campaign simply cant be financed right now. He needs the Unions and yet he cant give them everything as itll be another blow to his authority after a raft of u-turns and changed decisions over taxation and public finances.
And with a long summer recess, the talking backstage will only grow...

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Purnell the Policy Pincher

The Government has been leaking over the past weekend its new welfare policy and has finally released them which aim to ensure that those claiming benefits are actually those who need them. With so many claiming benefits for disability without being disabled, and with large numbers just too bone idle to get a job, there is plenty of people to target. The policy sounds pretty good and theres one reason why it does. Because the Conservatives announced the very same policy back in January. The entire policy is lifted almost verbatim from the Conservative policy document "Work for Welfare". Its strange that the Government announces such policies because when the Conservatives published the policy, Labour attacked it as uncosted and unworkable...

James Purnell, Secretary for Work and Pensions, is lauded by some analysts to be a potential Prime Minister, though seeing how quickly David Miliband's light was snuffed out when he started making moves, Purnell may not have long to promote himself. The problem is that Labour has a history of stealing Tory policies, then screwing up the implementation.

If all Labour can do is steal Tory policies, then is might as well go and call the next election now. This Labour Government is finished.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Nash Road, Margate

The above is the Coffin Corner end of Nash Road, which appears to have a serious problem with the school run traffic and with some parking overnight on it. Local residents have brought the issue up with me recently saying how terrible it looks compared to the rest of the road. Lister Road had a similar problem with hospital users and with a small fence put up stopped it. Perhaps that could be used again?

On another local issue, is Manyweather looking to apply again for planning consent to build on the disused railway? I understand consent was refused in October last year and the time before that it was resoundedly thrown out despite support from former Cllr Charlie Young but I spotted a Manyweather van on site last week, so perhaps they are going yet again. Interesting to see the site has been cleared up a bit.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The Passing of Prudence

According to the press and confirmed by the Treasury, talks are underway to reform the fundamental fiscal rules to allow more government borrowing. At the moment public finances are stretched an awful lot and are in serious risk of breaking the rules altogether (it can be argued that these rules have already been broken, and I would agree, but strictly speaking they havent).

The Government seems to ignore the fact that it is simply spending too much money. Its spending binge in the last handful of years has been paid for by the surplus of years before that and then by borrowing even though the clouds were coming in. Allowing itself another line of credit is going to lead to a further weakening of public finances because at some point, that borrowing will have to be paid for and itll have to come out of future tax receipts for example. The coming Pre Budget report is going to be even more important now. The Government must realise that borrowing so much money to fund such profligance is irresponsible and tighten its own belts before asking for more.

Right to Know

As part of the Conservative response to the expenses mess, David Cameron ordered all Conservative MPs to declare their spending. These declarations were made public this week. Roger Gale's expenses declaration can be found here (page 13).

Stephen Ladyman has declared his expenses on his website here.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Victoria Traffic Lights

Following Tony Flaig's comments on Kent Highways I think now is the time to have a good old moan about the traffic lights round where I work, namely the Victoria Road Traffic Lights and the work Kent Highways has been doing.

The Victoria Traffic Lights have had some serious problems with pedestrian safety and confusion over traffic flows being the key. Traffic regularly ignored the signs saying that you cant turn right when coming down College Road onto Ramsgate Road, meaning that cars turn right while pedestrians are crossing, leading to a number of near misses and only through sheer luck has there not been any run downs.

The plans indicated that there would be a number of improvements installed such as more islands to allow safe crossing and a MOVA traffic light system that would be able to adjust its traffic settings as it learns the traffic flows. All laudible for sure. Unfortunately it seems that problems have been found during the works and delays have appeared. So serious have the problems been that a dozen Highways workers descended on the junction on Sunday morning last week to get the work moving again. Rumours are that someone gave a metaphorical boot up the backside of some workers.

Poor laying on the pavement has meant that there could well be some complaints in the future by one business which appears to have had part of its forecourt tarmaced over and drains seem to have had the same treatment. More recently a pedestrian island has appeared between the already existing island outside the former Victoria Dry Cleaners and the non-shop corner. This seems to be a mistake on first glances because I dont recall there ever being any particular safety issues with those crossings, save those that the pedestrians made for themselves by risking an early crossing. It seems to me that maybe Highways has made a terrible mistake and put a crossing where its not needed. I understand that islands were to be placed between the non shop corner and the Victoria Parade and between the Victoria Pub and the former Golden Carp Fish Bar. They were the crossings that were required most but have not yet appeared. The temporary traffic lights have also been poorly placed leading to safety issues at key crossing points for pedestrians.

Local residents have been very patient indeed waiting for these works and hope that this will come out. But Kent Highways really needs to consider its scheduling of works so that the work gets done efficiently and properly. I know its not easy for those carrying out the works and I sympathise with them, but it needs doing and it needs doing properly.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Jacqui Smith U-turn over knife crime

Looks like an attempt to grab the public mood over knife crime has gone belly up. Jacqui Smith had been trailing through the past weekend sending those caught with knives to A and E units to see stab victims to show them what they have done. It was made pretty clear this was an idea that was strongly considered and not just blue skies thinking. In fact she was on Sky News confirming that was her view. Yet yesterday in Parliament she denied she ever proposed such an idea. Its bad enough that she along with her Ministerial colleagues frequently leak policy to the press before they come to Parliament, despite Gordon Brown having claimed a year ago that this would not happen under his Premiership, but to leak it and confirm on TV then to deny in Parliament ever doing it is misleading Parliament.

This is an example of soundboarding which Labour does a lot, where it leaks to the press and if the media generally go along with it, it goes in the policy document. If its panned, its out and theyve lost little public face. In this case, it was panned. She had two chances to restate her point and she flat out agreed with the media both times over the policy. To blame it for reporting something she later confirms catagorically seems rather silly. Its another U-turn that turned into a triple somersault and landing on the roof for Brown's Government.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Bribing electorates...

A White Paper (pdf) from the Department for Communities has a bunch of ideas cobbled together to "pass power into the hands of local communities. We want to generate vibrant local democracy in every part of the country, and to give real control over local decisions and services to a wider pool of active citizens.". A couple of thoughts.

1. "We will introduce a right of appeal where a community’s proposal for a local council is denied by the local authority." So senior Councils have no proper right to refuse. The Government clearly wants as many Councils as far down as possible with the idea being that itll give more representation and better governance. What itll actually lead to is a bureaucratic spaghetti bolognese leading to confusion and waste of public resources. In local government, less is more.

2. "We will give councils the power to provide modest incentives for voting – perhaps an entry into a prize draw – as a way of engaging people.". If people dont want to vote, then they dont want to vote. The idea that there should be a prize draw for those who choose to exercise the right to vote is disgusting. Its a low level bribe.

3. The Widdicombe rules should remain and local Labour should come out and say that they disagree with Hazel Blears. Council officers should never be councillors. THey must remain distinct roles.

A lot of the plans here will require more public spending, unless this is another example of the Government ordering Councils to do more with less... Public spending must be severely restrained in this difficult economic climate and the idea that we should spend money on incentives to encourage the public to vote or to have more advisors is not the right way to use such scarce resources.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


In the press last week and the local news last night it was reported the marketing of a Red Bull type drink called Cocaine, which is 3 and a half times stronger than Red Bull and will appear on the market soon.

I feel awkward about the sale of Red Bull to young people so this Cocaine really worries me. If Red Bull can affect a person like me, than its going to affect small children even more. I strongly believe its a dangerous thing to sell such drinks to young children and that traders in Thanet need to consider the safety of those who are buying the products. While there is no law banning or restricting the sale of Red Bull for example, a voluntary restriction to over 16s would ensure that the very young do not get hold of it and potentially risk their health. It has been banned abroad because of such health dangers.

Shops may prefer not to follow my advice and thats their choice, but should something bad happen soon after the kids drink that stuff, then they can expect to be held accountable for it. Traders must be wary of the goods they sell.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Margate Gateway and Privacy

I use the Thanet Gateway/Margate Library every day and know as well as anyone about how its changed since it was rejigged.

There is a serious lack of privacy for those with personal matters to deal with. Anyone can overhear the conversations of people talking about Council Tax or Housing Benefit and the person being served must feel awkward talking about their problems in full view divulging very sensitive information about themselves. The waiting space is again in public view just round the corner from the front door leading to some surely feeling as if theyve done something wrong, left to wait in public judgement like some petty criminal. This is wholly unfair.

The whole point of the reshuffle was so make it easier for those with problems with the Council to be served, but to my mind it has only served to cram it in a Library which has since become more noisy (uncontrollable children not being watched properly) and used more like a Jobcentre.

I strongly urge the Council to review this set up and if necessary close the building to re-organise it to ensure more privacy for those with Council matters. I say this having initially backed the idea of these changes as long as it worked. However this has not happened.

Mad World

The Daily Mail has written about a National Children's Bureau report on Young People and Racism, where it says that young children who dislike foreign food are racist and that they must be specifically condemned. Anyone who objects to this is also racist apparently. The NCB receives about £12million a year in public funding. I say we abolish the NCB and put the funding into paying the police their proper pay. The NCB were behind the smacking ban.

This is exactly the reason why I abhor this equality nonsense. Its overblown guff that punishes people for being normal. Babies cannot be racist. Because of people such as the NCB there must be equality reviews and risk assessments for all, creating non jobs.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Finance Bill votes

Stephen Ladyman has spoken of how retrospective green taxation isnt fair on the motorist as there is no way to avoid such penalties saying "a 'green' tax that you cannot avoid by changing your behaviour is not a 'green' tax, it's just a tax. in future, changes to excise duty aimed at encouraging people to drive cleaner cars should never bite on vehicles already on the road but always to new vehicles." He was quoted in PMQs with the first sentence. The final vote a while back The final votes on the Finance Bill putting into the law some of the things he spoke out against were held last night. If he really mean what he had said he would have voted against the Government plans and in favour of the relevant Tory amendments such as New Clause 3.

Instead he voted in favour of the Government every single time last night and against the Tory amendments, reinforcing the image that he will speak out against his Government in public to please his local voters and get a few headlines but when it comes to the crunch, wont have the cahones to even abstain from the things he has spoken out against. Of course he hopes no one notices and that it'll pass, particularly past Spring 2010. As with the Counter-Terrorism Bill he has spoken out against the plans and yet voted in favour of the legislation without a single abstention to his name.

As has been said before, Stephen Ladyman has only rebelled on the most exceptional of occasions, an unquestioning yes-man for Labour. And for what? Does he expect to be "appropriately rewarded"?